1. Make sure your kids eat breakfast. Eating breakfast jump-starts children's metabolisms and prevents them from overeating at lunch. Even if your child isn't hungry in the mornings, insist that he drink a glass of juice and munch on a breakfast bar.
2. Limit (but don't ban) fast foods. Avoid the lure of the drive-through by setting aside time to plan healthful menus for the week. And when you do take your kids to the local burger joint, you can use the occasion to model healthier eating: order low-fat milk instead of pop, a salad instead of fries and a regular burger instead of the triple-decker model.
3. Lose the sugary drinks. Those half-litre bottles of soda pack in close to 200 calories, and even fruit drinks come loaded with sugar. While 100 per cent fruit juice is healthy in limited amounts, children over two should be drinking mostly water and milk.
4. Bring on the family meal. Meals eaten at leisure with the family, rather than wolfed down in front of the TV or on the run, teach children how to eat slowly, chew thoroughly and recognize when they're full. Since it takes up to 20 minutes for the brain to tell the body it is full, rushing through meals can lead to overeating.
5. Let kids take control of their meals. Don't fill your child's plate – kids need to learn about self-regulation. Research shows that children may eat up to 25 per cent less when they serve themselves at meals.
6. Involve the whole family in exercise. It's up to you to turn off the tube, shut down the computer and get your family moving. This could mean walking around the block, playing at the park, working in the garden or going on a family hike or bike ride.
7. Practice what you preach. For better or worse, children learn from watching you. If you watch TV from the moment you come home in the evening, that will seem normal to your kids. If you go for an after-dinner walk, that's what your kids will view as normal.
Adapted from Overcoming Childhood Obesity (Bull Publishing, 2004, $25.50) by Colleen Thompson and Ellen Shanley. Available at major bookstores, through online booksellers or www.bullpub.com, or by calling 1-800-676-2855.
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